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Accurate Background Checks for Employers

Posted by Ryan Howard on Thu, Sep 21, 2017

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When employers run background checks, the primary concern is the safety of their business and their employees. Does the applicant have a criminal record? Is the data collected in the application process true? Are there lies on the resume? During the hiring process, the information obtained in the background report is assumed to be true and reliable for the hiring decision. In fact, hiring managers must be aware of the potential of inaccurate data and the myriad ways it can affect the organization.

Why is accuracy so important for background checks? Here are some considerations.

Accurate Background Checks for Employers

Safety and Security

The National Association of Professional Background Screeners in conjunction with HR.com conducted their own survey of employers and their access to reliable background checks.  With 96% of employers surveyed conducting employment background checks, the top reason for screening was to weed out violent offenders and violence in the workplace. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that, although workplace violence is in decline, the average annual rate of workplace violence  is about 5 violent crimes per 1,000 employees. When these crimes happen, productivity is drastically reduced, wages are lost, medical expenses are incurred, and overall company morale may be affected.  

Background checks are one of the best ways to avoid workplace violence and other toxic workplace behavior. Accurate reports are very important to employers who wish to hire quality employees without denying employment to others due to false data on background checks. Employers, while protecting their customers and employees, should also be aware of the potential for incorrect matches in reporting, how and why they happen.

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Challenges of Verifying Applicant Data

There are several reasons the background screening of a candidate may be inaccurate or misleading. An incorrect background screening report could show two potential possibilities:

  • False positive - The candidate's report disclosed a criminal record when, in fact, there was no record. 
  • False negative - The background check revealed no criminal record where there actually was one. 

Reasons for these results are because (1) hiring managers didn't obtain key identifiers when several individuals have the same name or similar information or (2) information furnished to the courts was untrue. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates that all furnishers of information must take reasonable procedures to "ensure maximum possible accuracy" and "records reported are complete and up-to-date."  These public records, including property records, marriage/divorce records, bankruptcy records, and criminal records, are obtained from many different courts across the country. The courts, unfortunately, have their own way of reporting, when they'll report, and what information they will furnish.  Therefore, the information obtained is as accurate as the original court records will allow. The question remains: Is it dependable data?

Employers: Hiring managers can ensure more accurate background checks by obtaining many different identifiers of their applicant.  The more accurate and meticulous the data, the more likely the screening company can gather the correct information and the quicker the result can be received. 

What Slows Down the Screening Process

With escalating concerns about identity theft, there's a nationwide push to remove or redact identifying information from public records.  The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) offered its own opinion on redacting identifiers and the affect it has on background checks.  When information such as full address, full social security number, and full date of birth is omitted from records, the effectiveness of a quality screening report is reduced.  Background check companies must:

  • Include criminal records based on limited identifiers that may or may not be applicable to the candidate, or
  • Omit any criminal records with limited identifiers that may be applicable to the candidate.

The screening companies must rely on court records to ensure accuracy to its clients. If the records are not easily available, or if identifying information is redacted, background check company representatives will have to make phone calls or in-person requests to the court or record repository. This extra work dramatically slows down the hiring process and adds additional costs for employers. 

Protecting Personal Information

There are numerous regulations for protecting a consumer's personal information. The FCRA specifies who can access the information and why (permissible purpose), and what authorization is required before obtaining the report. Professional background check companies that are accredited by the NAPBS are trained on the sensitivity of personal identifying information and regulated by laws to ensure accuracy. Credit reporting agencies and background check companies must also be compliant when disposing of records, preventing identity theft and fraud. Consumers have rights to their information including disputing information that is untrue, setting up fraud alerts, and freezing their credit. Omitting some information such as full social security numbers may be advisable but redaction of too many identifiers can cause more harm to employers and candidates, where their background checks are simply not reliable.

To guarantee an accurate result when screening candidates, work with a NAPBS screened background check company who will do the extra work to validate the information. The company should also be transparent about the costs associated with obtaining the report so that employers know what to expect. Reliable background checks not only keep businesses, employees, and customers safe, they also allow quality candidates to shine.

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Topics: Employment Background Screening